How to create 'sticky' content

How to create 'sticky' content

Why is it that a piece of content that conveyed no message, contained no information, and in many aspects was completely benign, was viewed millions of times online? It is because when Cadbury commissioned a video of a gorilla playing drums to ‘In the Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins, it made you smile. In other words, it triggered an emotional response. Whether content makes us laugh or cry, shocks or surprises us, or gives us that ‘a-ha moment’, that is, some useful insight that we had never previously considered; unless it provokes us emotionally, it is unlikely to have much impact.

Too many people in business create content without thinking about its emotional deliverable. Unless the content that is created elicits an emotional response, it will not resonate, be shared or encourage people to visit the platform again and engage with more material in the future.

One of the transformations in communication over the last thirty years is that today everyone possesses their own media channels. Control of the flow of information used to belong to relatively few media businesses. Enterprises would pay these media organisations in order to promote their products and services to the wider world. Meanwhile, individuals required the patronage of a publisher, broadcaster or production company to share their ideas, music and literature with a bigger audience than just friends or family.

Websites and social platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube etc., now give individuals and organisations the opportunity to publish, broadcast and communicate directly with their customers, prospects and wider marketplace.

A television network is only as good as the programmes that it broadcasts. A radio station is only as interesting as the shows that it airs. A newspaper or magazine is only as good as the stories it contains. Similarly, any online channel is only as compelling as the material that is posted.

In other words, the currency of media is content.

Consequently, in order for a business’s online media to be compelling, it needs to be able to create ‘sticky content’; that is, content that attracts significant numbers of its target audience and keeps people coming back to the channel to absorb more. While ensuring that the content resonates on an emotional level is vital, it is by no means the only factor that must be considered.

The power of story

There’s a legend that the American novelist Ernest Hemingway challenged some friends to write the shortest story possible. After going around the room, Hemingway’s won. His story was: “For sale; Baby shoes. Never worn.” While content is the currency of media, what actually makes that material work is narrative.

Not only does story capture the imagination, but it can talk to logic and emotion at the same time. By alluding to, or conveying a story, the content that is created will always be more potent. For example, when Old Spice used the line, ‘the man your man could smell like’, or Clairol’s hair dying promotion presented a picture of a woman with ‘Does she or doesn’t she?’, both of those evoke a whole narrative inside your mind.

The question that is not asked enough in companies generally, and in communications departments specifically is, ‘what’s the story?’ For example, a glue manufacturer producing a new product may ask:

  • Who are we working with?
  • Why did we invent the product?
  • What challenges is it there to meet?
  • Who are the personalities involved in its creation?
  • Who should use the product and why?

When you start to ask these questions internally, with a mind on the story, a narrative can be created. Whatever your product or service, there is always a story. It may not be Ernest Hemingway, but if you want your content to be effective, it is important.

How to find the story

Apart from asking questions, how do you find stories to tell? How do you keep them interesting? An extremely powerful technique is changing focus. For example, Donald Trump is one of the most polarising political figures of all time, and whether you are a supporter of his, or a critic, he doesn’t receive a lot of sympathy from either side of the political divide.

However, what would happen if the story of Trump’s presidency was told through his son’s eyes, Barron Trump, who was ten years old when his father was inaugurated as President in 2017. This is one of the most vilified figures in modern political history, but if you were to look at Donald Trump’s presidency with the outlook of Barron, whose dad was being dragged through the press every day, it might cultivate a very different perspective of what was going on in the White House at the time.

By thinking of a business, product or service as a picture on a canvas, focusing the camera lens on different aspects of the image can generate very different stories to tell and exude specific feelings from the audience. Creating content has become an increasingly necessary discipline within organisations. By looking at the company’s offering, marketplace and customers from different angles, using this technique to develop compelling narratives while ensuring that the material resonates emotionally with the audience, enterprises can produce ‘sticky content’ that proves effectual and worth the investment.